New Mexico Travel Guide
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
New Mexico Things to Do
Okay, so you are heading to New Mexico. Wonderful! There are so many things to do and see in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.
There are many wonderful things to see no matter why you come to New Mexico or which route you take. Here are some great ideas of things to see, do, and experience.
New Mexico is known for the history, unique culture, sunshine, as well as art galleries and shops. Let’s begin our exploration! Let’s plot how we are getting to Albuquerque and all the wonderful things to do on the way to or when leaving Albuquerque. Some of the things to do are right at hand in Albuquerque, some are comfortable day drives, and some are perfect when driving to or from Albuquerque. Even if you are flying in you will need to rent a car to take advantage of wonderful Albuquerque and all of New Mexico.
One note before we begin; Depending on where you are coming from and how you view distances you may think the distances given here are not so close. However, New Mexico is a largely open spaces state, so, what is close for us may seem like a long way to you. If you want to see some of the many wonders of the Land of Enchantment you will need a car and the willingness to re-think what is ‘a close drive is’ for New Mexico.
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is where you will find 700 to 1,000 balloons from all over the world in a 10 day orgy of dawn patrols, balloon glows, mass ascensions, arts pavilions, dining experiences and generally all the fun that you can handle!
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 with a total of 13 balloons that launched from a shopping mall parking lot. The 2000 Balloon Fiesta boasted over 1,000 balloons.
Here are some wonderful things to do at the Balloon Fiesta on those ten days in October of 2012.
You may drive to the Balloon Fiesta grounds, or take the Rail Runner to the grounds. You should plan on an early rise to begin the day at a mass ascension. It is exciting to walk among all those balloons being launched. Make sure to attend an evening balloon glow event as well.
Here are some web sites to visit regarding the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta:
For specific days and times of events:
A fun video for the Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque New Mexico Old Town Restaurants
Dining New Mexico
Foods New Mexico
Shopping and Dining
There are various Art Events in Albuquerque that you will see from I-25 in big tents. Yes, these are worth your visit.
Old Town Albuquerque is full of wonderful shops as well as restaurants.
The roadside stands offer a wonderful array of all items New Mexico too!
You will be asked “red or green?” many times when you dine in New Mexico. New Mexico grows the world’s finest chiles. They come in red or green and every taste from mild to blazing hot. So, ask how hot the chile sauce is before you decide. You can ask for the ‘red or green’ on the side too.
Chiles are the umami taste of New Mexico. The taste is quite seductive and addictive.
~ El Pinto on 10500 4th st NW, Albuquerque 9505-898-1771, near the Balloon Fiesta.
~ Little Anitas in OldTown at 2105 Mountain Road.
~ Taco Sals as seen often in the TV show, Breaking Bad, is known for their hot sauce and is located at 9621 Menaul Boulevard.
~ The Frontier is a famous student eatery with some excellent green. Visit the University of New Mexico Campus and have some of this locally voted best green at the Frontier at 2400 Central, right across from the main campus. Have a nice walk on campus after your meal.
HISTORY~Native Americans in New Mexico
Visit a Pueblo
The first people in the New Mexico area were the indigenous people that have inhabited the area for 2,000 years. Pueblo People refers to people who inhabit a pueblo (small town or community.)
A very interesting Pueblo to visit is the Acoma (ă-KO-mah) Pueblo. It is about a 70 mile drive west on I-40. Take the 102 exit.
The Acoma Pueblo was built around 1150 A.D. and has the world wide reputation of being the world’s oldest continually inhabited community in the United States. http://sccc.acomaskycity.org/history
It is something to see as it is built on top of a sheer sandstone bluff some 367 feet above the valley below. There are educational tours to Acoma from the Haak’u Museum. Visitors are not allowed open access to the Acoma Pueblo.
Visitor etiquette is very important. Taking pictures is strictly controlled and you must have a permit to take pictures. You may not stray from the tour and wander around on your own.
Here is the web site for more information: http://museum.acomaskycity.org/
Las Golondrinas Living History Museum
Conquistadors and Spanish Influence
In the 1500’s a wave of Spanish Conquistadors (soldiers for their own fortune and in the name of Spain) came looking for the rich gold built cities in the area.
The Conquistadors did not find gold but did colonize an area bigger than the modern day state of New Mexico. Spain kept the area a closed society and refused any trade with the United States. When Mexico won their independence from Spain they were broke and sold the area to the USA.
Many Spanish influences abound in New Mexico to this day. You will see the Spanish influences in the every day lives (food choices, place names, architecture etc.) of modern day New Mexico citizens.
Las Golondrinas, the Ranch of the Swallows, is a living history museum and ranch recording the 200 years of Spanish Colonization of the Southwestern USA. The displays are true to culture and worked by costumed history buffs. These history actors delight in explaining the history they are living.
Las Golondrinas is 40 minutes north of Albuquerque on I-25 where you will take exit 276 left and head north on state road 599. From the left lane you will take a left at the first traffic light to Frontage Road where in ½ mile you turn right on Los Pinos Road. It is 3.2 miles to Las Golondrinas on Pinos Road.
You will need at least a half a day for Las Golondrinas. It would be preferable to spend an entire day there.
Here is the Las Golondrinas web site. The web site is especially well done. You will also need to check current hours before you plan your visit. http://golondrinas.org/index.html
Santa Fe Plaza
Santa Fe delights visitors from all over the world. Santa Fe celebrates art, culture, dining, history and all things New Mexican.
Santa Fe, founded in 1610, is the oldest inhabited state capital and also the highest state capital at 7,000 feet above sea level. The Santa Fe Plaza is just another 20 minutes north of Las Golondrinas on State road 599. So, do think about visiting Santa Fe too. You cannot ‘do’ Las Golondrinas and Santa Fe in less than 2 days.
Shop the Santa Fe Plaza and enjoy the ambiance of the old plaza. Santa Fe is a compact city and there are many walking tours; New Deal Art Legacy tour, a Literary Lane tour, or coffee lover’s tour. Do keep in mind that while these tours are not long they do take place in a city 7,000 feet above sea level!
The Cathedral basilica of St Francis of Assisi is just off the world famous plaza. The dining is very specific to New Mexico cuisine, and do NOT think Mexican cooking is all rice and beans slathered in sauces. It is a sophisticated varied culinary experience.
U.S Travel ranked Santa Fe #3 for museums after New York and Boston. Here is a short list of museums in and around Santa Fe:
~ Palace of the governors on the Plaza
~ New Mexico Museum of Art
~ Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
~ Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
~ Georgia O’Keefe Museum
~ Center for Contemporary Arts
~ Bataan Memorial Military Museum and Library
You can also take the Rail Runner train to Santa Fe from several stops in Albuquerque. You can easily see the Plaza area in a day if that is all the time that you have.
Whatever your speed of tourism, Santa Fe can please you.
Gallup New Mexico, Dine and Shop at Earl's Restaurant
Coming from the West on I-40?
Stop in Gallup New Mexico a Native American hub for the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni peoples. It is located 160 miles due west of Albuquerque New Mexico on I-40.
Gallup has a myriad of shops and galleries. Do plan on having a meal there. One of my favorites is Earl’s Restaurant where authentic and delicious New Mexican food is served while approved vendors stroll the tables selling their authentic Native American jewelry and art.
You will also be crossing the Continental Divide on I-40.
El Morro State Park is located at a very important watering stop for ancient people, Spanish Conquistadors, railroad surveyors, and wagon train members. These people scratched their symbols and names on the beautiful sky touching cliff. The museum and grounds are excellent. To get to El Morro from Gallup, go south on NM 602, then east on NM 53 through Ramah.
North on I-25 ~ Farm and Ranch Museum, Las Cruces
Fred Harvey House and Railroad HUB
Coming from I-25 and travelling north?
Where I-10 meets I-25 there is a wonderful old town of Las Cruces. Visit the Las Cruces old town for fine food and shopping. The Farm and Ranch Museum just outside of Las Cruces is a sprawling museum full of exhibits, animals, and history of New Mexico. There is an especially nice outside ranch area with tractors and animals.
Further north on I-25 is the small sleepy town of Hatch New Mexico where the world’s best green chiles are grown. This is the place to buy your chile ristras. A ristra was the way to dry and keep chiles for the winter months. It is now a good luck symbol.
The Harvey House Museum in Belen New Mexico is also worth a stop. Before the advent of modern roads the only way to go to the great Southwest was on the train. Fred Harvey provided the very special train stop restaurants, gift shops, and resorts for the Santa Fe Railroad. This is one of the few Harvey House Museums left in the world and the only one in New Mexico.
Never heard of Fred Harvey? Well, in his day he was as well known as McDonalds AND Starbucks. If you want to learn about how the Southwest was settled do read An Appetite for America by Stephen Fried.
You are now some 27 miles south of Albuquerque and your destination. While driving north on I-25, enjoy the view to your right of the famous Rio Grande River Valley. You will see some beautiful fall farm scenes. Keep a look out for those balloons as even before the Balloon Fiesta there will be many balloonists taking advantage of the perfect Albuquerque balloon weather!
Putting These Places on the Map
Retire on the Golf Course in New Mexico
Better still, move to sunny New Mexico. Enjoy the mild four seasons with a laid back lifestyle. This home is listed at a modest $134,000 for two bedrooms (one master), 2 bath, kiva fireplace, 2 car garage and RV parking and more. Take a look! New Mexico could just be the ticket for your lifestyle. http://www.trulia.com/property/3082831725-1710-Jack-Nicklaus-Dr-Belen-NM-87002
New Mexico Recommended Books
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Questions and comments are welcome!
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New Mexico Books
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